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Now I will leave the Cliff House, and fast forward forty-four years to February 1, 2015. The Super Bowl features our Seattle Seahawks (yes I’m a fan) vs The New England Patriots, (if I was an east-coast girl I’d be their fan!). We do not go to the games (much to claustrophobic for that) and do not have any “12th person” gear, but, we will be rooting for our west-coast team.
I heard on NPR this morning that the amount of food American’s consume today is second only to the food consumption on Thanksgiving.
Today is my birthday. Gonna have a good time! The weather; mild — no rain. I receive loving wishes from my sisters, Facebook greetings from friends whom I answer individually. I shower, have brunch with Creighton, then Jello and I head out to do my errands; shopping for fresh seafood for the dinner I have in mind, off to the dog park so Jello can stretch out and I can contemplate how good it is to be alive, and then a pedicure — the first professional one I have had in years. Topped off with presents, bubbly, music and love, happy camper!
Today Linda and I met for tea before our writing group meeting. She had asked me to edit a one page summary of a novel she is sending to an editor. I feel honored that she trusts my judgement. She is an accomplished, published writer and teacher. We have clicked in a special way, for which I feel blessed. Maybe because she is about Lori’s age, but mostly because we are both very careful when we provide feedback in the group; always complimenting, supporting, and adding suggestions gently. Nip and tuck, add a little here, she accepted it all.
Lori wrote the most wonderful praise to me in her birthday card message. I told her that each word felt like a kiss.
“I hope this day brings you all that you treasure and deserve: friends, love, sunshine, flowers, beagle licks and the knowledge of how special and wonderful you are. I cannot thank you enough for all you have done over the years to support me as a person, a woman and a sister. You have been a role model and friend to me in so many ways that I cannot even name them all.”
Now that feels good!
Four Varied Thrush on the rail, and one on a branch. Break in the rain, fresh feed of sunflower kernels, peanuts, corn. If you have never seen one, go to https://lindylecoq.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/thrush-weekly-photo-challenge-warmth/ to see some nice photos.
Related to Robins and Bluebirds, Varied Thrush make an eerie, high-pitched cry which is how I first became familiar with the bird. After a couple years hearing that spine tingling call in late winter into early spring, I finally explored a website featuring regional bird calls and was able to identify it.
Maureen and Bruce hosted friends and neighbors for a birthday party celebration at their home, just around the corner. The house was decorated with garlands of cutout hearts, candles and twinkle lights. Three boxes of See’s chocolates were opened and set in different rooms, and the kitchen bar was spread with an array of delectable foods and beverages. We were the first to arrive at 6:00, and the crowd grew for the next hour. LT arrived and felt somewhat out of his element, so he and Creighton departed, while I stayed to eat, drink, meet, converse and observe.
It is time to update my bio on WordPress. 2015 — half way into my third year being retired, after thirty years as a high school counselor. The one guiding principle I set for myself as I entered this phase of life was to “be a human being instead of a human doing.” It is a work in progress. Being and doing are both necessary for survival and exist together. What has changed is that no one else decides for me what I will do today — which provides time and space to be who I am while doing what I choose.
Throughout my life I have enjoyed being outside — to listen, smell, feel, see what mother earth is up to in the moment, which is why I love working in the gardens around my home. For thirty years I have shaped, nurtured and learned from this quarter acre of earth. Another work in progress!
It has been sheer joy to work my short stories (which were rough-drafts two and a half years ago), into finished prose, illustrated with my original drawings. One is done, two is half way, three is, well, shall we say it’s a work in progress.
Diana turns 71 today. Oh, you who are young and hold grievances toward your older siblings, if they have mellowed with age, forgive them everything. Grant them grace. My sister was/is five years older than I — which created a lot of jealousy within me when I was a pre-teen. You see, she was a mature young woman, while I was a gawky girl. It took a decade or so for me to come to understand it was not her fault! There was no fault. It was simply the time in-between when we were hatched that caused problems.
As I contemplated the mess where I stack firewood to cure over the summer for next winter’s wood fires, a Spotted Towhee hopped along the fence-top and in amongst the arborvitae hedge. For the first time I was able to see the bird as it scolded me with its characteristic “whoreee” trill. “So that’s YOU!” I said, as it dipped into the shrubbery. “Whoree!” it replied. Which I’m pretty sure meant, “Get the hell out of my little corner of your yard!” We have had occasional Towhee sitings in previous years. Maybe this one will stay.
It is not even the middle of February and the daytime temperature approaches 60f without dipping into freezing at night. Global warming is here. All the spring bulbs have sent up their green shoots; one daffodil swings wide open in the breeze, purple peony buds pulse up from the ground where usually we see only the fair beauty of crocus or early snowdrops. Late winter vibernum blossoms begin to open, and the primroses planted last year are blooming brightly.
My focus moves from inside to out. Spring garden clean-up is nearing completion. Maybe I will adopt the Chinese calendar.
In addition to digging and grubbing in the gardens I am a keeper of notebooks. Almost every plant I have tried to grow in this landscape has been studied to some degree; does it belong in shade, or need full sun — perhaps dappled light, or sun on its crown and shade at its roots. It makes a difference. What kind of soil and moisture will it tolerate; clay or sand, boggy or well-drained, rich loamy or any dirt will do. What about fertilizing; is the plant a heavy feeder or prefer no nutrient enhancements, 10-10-10, evergreen mix….
…and what about pruning? Does the plant require a haircut and if so, when and how much and where and what branches and how much of the plant. As a landscape artist gardener my goal is to have every plant be in a location that suits it so it will thrive and be beautiful year-round, which is why all this note-taking and research is important. Every February I scratch my head and wonder what needs what right now, which lead to making a comprehensive list of my plants with notes of when and how to prune and fertilize.
This leads me back to the conundrum of defining early-spring, late-winter, mid-spring, mid-summer — which is essential with both fertilizing and pruning — since the times to do both use these terms to define when to add, subtract, do more, do less, stop doing everything — and for some plants it is the same schedule, but for others it is not, and no one schedule will fill the needs of all. Kinda sounds like a kindergarten class! And they are my charges; most are here because I planted them, so their health and welfare is in part my responsibility .
It was a smaller gathering for our collective birthday celebration. Les stayed home with their dog who is very ill and requiring continual attention. Kass is such a loving dog, it will be sad to lose her. Diana holds a glimmer of hope, but is also realistic.
Sister Lori will be visiting in two weeks, and Mike may visit in summer.
Dad looked good and cheerful, largely because Diana scolded him into getting a haircut, and letting her clean his clothes. She is understandably weary.
Molly is about to pop her first-born and is hanging in there — literally & figuratively.
Creighton’s father passed away Friday, 2/13, at the age of 91. It has been only three months since his mother died, so this is a lot of loss to assimilate for both of us — particularly for Creighton. He is doing his best, and I am keeping tabs on his well-being, just as I monitor my own. There is no quick fix, just the working through and finding peace within. Today I sent an email to our friends notifying them. The love and support of my family and our friends that will keep us on a healing path.
Linda Ferguson, rising woman poet/author in Portland, and I had lunch today at Bread & Ink before our writing group meeting. The day was so mild and lovely that, with time to spare, we walked the neighborhood after our meal. She is one of the few people who really listens to me and gives me space to reel out my thoughts, which, or course, flow even more easily when walking outside on a pleasant early spring day. It is another blessing of being retired; I am coming into my own as an artist and feeling cared about by new friends.
Mardi-gras, Chinese New Year, and another afternoon in the gardens. Birds are pairing up now and their migration to summer digs is in full swing. We participated in Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Great Backyard Bird Count and had a respectable number of species show up on the grounds. The whole concept of being a “citizen scientist” turns me on. At the end of the day a pair of mourning doves ambled along a gravel pathway under tall firs by the pond. It is the same pair as last year. I know because they recognized my “dovey-wovey” greeting!
Eerily warm and dry for mid-February, Pacific Northwest. Keep waiting for a change to freezing at night, but 38f is the coldest I have seen for three (maybe more) weeks. Would I have attributed this phenomenon to global warming ten years ago — or just thought hey, it’s nice out — lets get going in the gardens.
Crocus are already spent, daffodils swell and bloom, hyacinth and tulips lift skyward, nobs of hosta and peony press fleshy pink nubbins above brown crust, and crisp burgundy leaves emerge from plum trees and roses, starkly profiled against a clear, pale, blue sky.
Strange day. Well, maybe. Or not. Creighton seems to be reeling more now from the reverberations of his father’s passing. So many conundrums. "Sad -- it didn’t have to end this way." But it did.
And what else can you say, but that they were ill-suited, yet managed to have three children, forge a life together though generally at odds with one another, and when there was enough wealth to split, they did. And now there is none.
Which is how he grew up — those ten years before his two younger brothers came along…it was tough going.
Jello had a busy day. First she went with me to Portland Nursery, where she sniffed and wagged us around the grounds as we looked for the flora I wanted. After lunch, she talked me into our usual walk, and soon I got down to business planting, fertilizing and watering. Then, who should come strolling by but Heidi and Louis! Little Louis the corgie who has welcomed Jello into his back yard at least three times. While the two canines acclimated to the new environment of Jello’s back yard and started playing, Heidi and I talked dogs and gardens.
At the end of yesterday, but before dinner, Maureen and Bruce were at the door with comfort gifts to acknowledge Creighton (and my) loss of his father so soon after his mother passed. Amazing how relationships grow, thrive, hibernate, re-emerge, get a little bit of this and that and come out of dormancy. Both of them have lost both their parents. There was so much energy and honesty in the conversation — I feel like I am bouncing off the satellites. We are a balanced foursome. I hope we do more of this getting together to share, talk, vent, love.
It must have happened just minutes before Jello and I walked by. A cat lay limp on the side of the street, gasping for air. Blood pooled on the tarmac, it was terminal. “Oh God,” I moaned, as I ran Jello the short way home, dropped her off and grabbed a towel. I wrapped the still-warm black and white family pet in the towel and cradled it. No heartbeat, just sadness. A small red collar, but no tag. I walked around the corner to Kate’s, knowing she would understand. With touch and prayer she lifted a kitty soul.
At the end of the day the owner of the dearly departed kitty was identified. She is a friend — and Kate’s neighbor. I so wanted it not to be her cat! When she arrived to collect her kitty I was sobbing. Maybe it was the last straw for me. I hadn’t cried over either of Creighton’s parents passing or even when I witnessed the cat’s passing. But when I realized it was Peggy’s pet, I came undone — in a way it was like when Grandpa died — I had been so sure God would hear me.
Lori arrived right on time, flying from Greenville, South Caroline through Chicago and on to PDX. One tuckered sister since her trip began at midnight our time, and her flight arrived at 10:30 in the morning. After getting her settled in at my place, we took Jello for a walk and then went off to have pedicures. What a great way to start things off. Later, Lori went to her daughter, Molly’s home for dinner. At nine o’clock she was back here and I poured her into bed. After twenty-one hours up, she was wiped-out!
Together we sit — side-by-side on the love seat, drinking our morning coffee. My sister has been awake since 4:00 a.m. and had already completed her obliged telephone conferences when I came downstairs to refill her cup. I light a fire and get going on my writing while she answers emails and corrects homework from her on-line students. The only agenda I have today is to give her as much leeway as she needs to get some equilibrium before she launches into the next few days of family gatherings and the birthing of her first grandchild.
This morning Lori’s older daughter, Meghan, arrives to be part of the welcoming and support group for her sister who will have her baby soon. They have a day planned and Lori will be staying with our niece, Lynn, for the next couple days. The weather is lovely once again, so I am excited to get out into my gardens. Jello and I take one last load of yard debris to the recycle center, and come home for a walk. Then my energy flags and I decide to take the rest of the afternoon off. Routine change is tiring!
Two universe-shifting events are happening at this very moment —my Dad is turning 93 years old, and his granddaughter, Molly, is delivering her firstborn — a son — Micah.
I have never given birth, though I have shepherded many on their way in life. Even now I shepherd Molly’s mom, my younger sister, Lori as she experiences this reality.
I assumed she was with Molly, but she has been in the family waiting area since noon and has seen Molly just once.
Lori texts me with observations and hints of her feelings. I encourage her to journal without censoring herself.
The Tip Jar